tears-of-the-fisherman-coverTears of the Fisherman: Recovery for Men Wounded by Abortion by Kevin Burke (Priests for Life, 183 pages)

Kevin Burke, co-founder of Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, new book, Tears of the Fisherman, begins by recalling the family background of Simon Peter and Andrew, two of the first disciples of Jesus, and how Jesus chose Simon whom he called Peter, knowing his strengths and flaws.  He saw the inevitable denial and turmoil awaiting Peter during His Passion, knowing Peter the rock, would return humbled and more prepared to lead His Church.

The second chapter titled “Silence of Adam” recalls Adam’s close proximity to Eve as the Serpent challenges her to go against God’s will and how he stood idly by her side and unquestioningly ate the forbidden fruit Eve passed to him.

These two chapters introduce the general reaction of the man in the abortion stories that follow. How the man often pulls away or denies his own responsibility by his actions. There are some short excerpts at the end of the second chapter of men from Silent No More exemplifying this reality.

The author wisely finishes each chapter with a point that introduces the next one. Hence, “Other men have a very different abortion story from Adam in the Garden. They can help us answer the question: Can some man experience abortion as a traumatic loss?” Heart-moving stories of men who were unable to save their child or were not told about the child until after they were aborted. The emotional and physical effect of the abortion on the fathers, known and unknown to them, had devastating long lasting results. The Peter denial or Adam’s silence often appear to be the root of the problem. Hence, vulnerability and responsibility are the two elements that must be faced by the father to find healing and forgiveness.

In the chapter, “Proclaiming Liberty to Captives,” Burke enters a jail to set the captives free. The spiritual director at the jail is initially skeptical until 90 per cent of the men he ministers to acknowledge they have been implicit in at least one abortion. The team develops a 10-week version of Rachael’s Vineyard with assignments from the book Healing a Father’s Heart.

In one example, a young African American inmate who had a solid upbringing was driven to violence after an abortion he strove to prevent.  He was left depressed and upset at his loss and worked hard to put it behind him, even joining the military where he began to abuse alcohol. One night while out on a drunken spree with some of his friends he drew a gun he was carrying, and shot and killed a man who yelled out a racial slur at him as he entered the restaurant. Exploring his life since the abortion helped him discover he had not adequately dealt with the loss of his child. He and three other men interviewed by the author have become model inmates and are part of the Rachael’s Vineyard team inside the prison.

They quickly discover that many of the men had a fractured relationship with their own father or stepfather. The disconnect was deepened during their teenage years and their abortion decision as young men attacked them on an even deeper personal level leading to violent behaviour.

Burke also briefly examines the lives of post-abortive women. Alveda King, director of civil rights for the unborn at Priests for Life tells a moving story about how her grandfather, the father of Martin Luther King Jr. and (her own father) A.D. King, successfully encouraged her mother not to abort her. Alveda King was born January 22,1951, and would herself have an unplanned abortion, the doctor performing what he called an invasive examination causing a “miscarriage.” She felt she was never able to process the trauma caused by that forced abortion. Then shortly after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 Alveda was pregnant again and under the threat of violence from the baby’s father and the now easy-access to abortion, she gave into the coercion and terminated her pregnancy. These two abortions left her depressed and unable to bond with her future children.

It has taken Alveda many years to find healing. She now sees her grandfather, famous uncle, and her own father, as father-figures one may honestly admire.

The stories in the following chapters are insightful on how and why abortion leads to depression, denial, and violence for fathers affected by abortion. Men avoid admitting they feel vulnerable or depressed and often turn to substance abuse or other addictive behaviour, often leading to violence. Rachel’s Vineyard for Men has been successful in helping these men identify, admit, and face their vulnerability and to find recovery as men wounded by abortion.

In the chapter “The Restoration of Simon Peter,” Burke recounts Christ’s forgiving grace and Peter humbling himself before God. A journey unfolds for Peter as it does for the men who have been wounded by abortion who learn to turn to God for his forgiving grace. The roles vary for men involved in abortion, as does the road to recovery. Faith in God and His Mercy is the most prevalent element in the approach used to find healing.

In the final chapter “Construction Process of Healing,” Burke explains the importance of the Peace of Christ and list several well-established resources for healing.

 Leeda Crawford is a Toronto pro-life activist.